In my exploration of Colorado Wilderness Areas, I am currently somewhat focused on the Holy Cross Wilderness. I decided that the July 4 weekend would be a good time to explore the particularly remote southwestern portion of the Wilderness. I thought the short hike to Lyle Lake and Mormon Lake might be good for my recovering ankle since it is an easy six mile-roundtrip hike. It was a long drive to the trailhead via Glenwood Springs and Basalt, above the beautiful Ruedi Reservoir, and over an extended, dirt-road to the trailhead. Several miles into the drive on the dirt road, the tire pressure signal sounded on my dashboard. I stopped but couldn’t find which tire was flat. Once I had stopped at the trailhead, it was obviously the right front tire. I mentioned that I had a flat to a large group of hikers who had just returned to the trailhead. The two men who were approximately my age immediately jumped into action. The lead man checked the pressure on my tires and confirmed that the one was flat and the two immediately proceeded to put on the spare tire with alacrity and efficiency. When they were done, the lead man said, “not as fast as the Indy 500, but pretty good.” I would certainly have figured it out myself, but I would have been much slower and I was very grateful.
The first half of the hike was through meadows that were very green and very wet from snow melt. Water was running everywhere and the ground was like a saturated sponge. The water-loving globeflowers carpeted the meadows. It was an easy hike to Lyle Lake which was still partially covered with melting ice. The Lake is surrounded by a high wall around its northern half, and the steep wall was partially covered with snow fields. From the southern side I could see the trail to Mormon Lake traversing steeply up the wall to a saddle at the northern end. Part of the trail up was across snow and part was clear. When I reached the top of the saddle, I found it covered with deep snow. Spring snow fields are typically hard packed and solid from melting and refreezing and one can usually walk over them without sinking down. I was able to follow the trail from the saddle because it was intermittently clear of snow. At one point, while traversing a steep snow field, I sank deeply into the snow, down a couple of feet. I used my crossed trekking poles as a fulcrum to get out and slid down the last thirty feet of the slope on my seat to a clear patch of trail. In Colorado, we call sinking into the deep snow “post holing,” and I had post holed because there were boulders buried under the snow, and where I had stepped there was a cavity next to the boulder. Later, I sunk where there was a small, hidden stream under the snow, hitting and scraping my knee on a rock.
The snow was making what would have been easy hike difficult and this was not the best thing for my ankle. The sky was now completely overcast, there was thunder in the distance, and it was starting to rain lightly. So I decided to find a campsite as soon as I could. I could tell I was getting close to the Lake. I had been traversing the top of a steep valley and would be reaching a saddle to begin a short, easy descent into the Mormon Creek valley to the lake. I reached the saddle and found a dry spot on a knoll for a camp. It began to sleet lightly, so I made camp and crawled into the tent. The wind was blowing and the temperature dropping. When the wind and rain had stopped, I got out with all my layers on and heated water for a hot dinner and beverage which made me feel warm and contented. I wandered around the knoll and spotted Mormon Lake covered with ice just below, across a large snow field. It was completely overcast so there would be no evening pictures. I spent a warm and comfortable night in the tent.
The next morning was sunny and beautiful. I did not feel like crossing the snow field to the lake and so did not get a good picture of the lake since from the vantage point of the knoll the sun was rising behind the lake. I did take pictures of the snow-covered landscape. By following my original track, I had an easy hike back to Lyle Lake and spent some time there taking pictures.